According to a small new study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, losing just one night of sleep saw an immediate increase of the protein beta-amyloid in the brain which is linked to Alzheimer's Disease.
Groups of beta-amyloid proteins form amyloid plaques, a sign of the disease. Amyloid plaques disrupt communications between neurons.
"This research provides new insight about the potentially harmful effects of a lack of sleep on the brain and has implications for better characterising the pathology of alzheimer's disease," says Dr George F. Koob, director of the National institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Gathering a group of 20 healthy participants aged between 22 and 72, scientists studied their brain activity after a night of sleep and then a night of sleep deprivation ( awake for about 31 hours). Researchers noticed an increase in beta-amyloid proteins of five per cent in areas of the brain where alzheimer's is strongly linked.
Participants who experienced larger increases in beta-amyloid after sleep deprivation also showed signs of mood swings.
Despite the findings, scientists didn't examine whether the increase in beta-amyloid would recede after a night of rest.